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Make a LION TAMER Circus Costume

Okay, I can’t even tell you how excited I am that my kiddos decided to do the same theme this year for Halloween costumes.  We have done the same theme many, many times (here are all the costumes HERE)….but the last two years, they’ve all kinda wanted to go in different directions with their costumes, and that’s totally okay.  But right after last year (when Connor and Oliver wore Star Wars Costumes and Ellie and Chloe wore Butterfly costumes), they started talking about how they missed all dressing up together.  They decided then and there that they wanted to do the same thing.  I think Ellie was kind of the ringleader of that discussion and the others chimed in and agreed with her! Ha!

But for almost an entire year, Ellie, Connor, and Chloe have talked about dressing up as a CIRCUS COSTUME THEME this year!!  (3 year old Oliver has been pretty clueless.)  They have thrown around ideas of who wants to be what and were even talking about what the baby would be (before we even knew Max was a boy).  The ideas have switched several times but have now all been decided…..and they’re so excited for me to hurry up and finish them!!  (And I’ll admit, there are a couple I’m EXTRA excited to make, because they’re just hilarious!!!  Ha!)

Anyway, first up…..Ellie, the Lion Tamer!!!

Oh my goodness, you guys…..this girl has never wavered!  Ellie has wanted to be the Lion Tamer since the discussion first began to do a Circus theme last year.  But she didn’t want to be some boy-ish tamer with boring pants.  She wanted a fluffy skirt, a ring of fire (which maybe goes more with a Tiger trainer…but who cares, right?), and she didn’t necessarily want a whip….because she’s an animal lover.  She’s the type of Lion Tamer that lovingly coaxes her lions through that Ring of Fire! ;)

So I made her Lion Tamer costume a little more girly and added a skirt, but also turned the traditional red show coat into a vest and added long black satin gloves!  (Those gloves might be her very favorite part! Ha!)

When we showed up at the train tracks to take pictures, she said, “oh, I get it…the traveling circus! We’re off to another city to perform! I’ve read about that in books!”  (Because no, we’ve never actually been to the circus. Haha!)  But then, while standing on the old track that is half destroyed, a train came by on the active track and about knocked her over with the intense sound!  She has some training to do before she’s truly ready for the circus! ;)

But this Lion Tamer doesn’t just teach tricks to lions…..she has a few tricks of her own! :)

I have spent lots of hours on previous costumes, but this one didn’t take much time at all.  But was very satisfying to make!  (My favorite thing is when they put the completed costume on.  I still love that little bit of surprise that I get and then think, “hey, it actually worked!!)

The part of this costume that took the longest….was the vest, but it really wasn’t bad.  Especially because there are no sleeves.  But, I love that it imitates the look of a real Lion Tamer jacket…..with all of that obnoxious gold trim! :)

I especially love those fringe-y shoulder pads!  They are perfect for the Lion Tamer “look”!

The hat is actually an inexpensive foam hat, with a few gold items added on.

And those gloves!  No, I didn’t make them…..but I did buy lady sized gloves (because they were cheaper) and adapted them to fit Ellie’s hands and arms!

The skirt is full and fluffy and covered in tiny black sequins.  Nice and sparkly for a circus show!!

Someone please tell me this 5th grader of mine will continue dressing up and loving Halloween!  She still creates plays and performs with her little siblings…..and they are constantly digging through the old costume bin.  I kinda wondered if she would outgrow it by now, but I think it has something to do with birth order (since she’s the oldest and all the younger kiddos still love it).  So I’m going to enjoy her excitement while I can!!!

Ahhhh……ONE costume down, FOUR to go!  (Any guess what the others will be?!  Oooh, I can hardly wait to show you!)


Anyway, do you want to see how this costume is made??

Okay, here we go…

SUPPLIES for Lion Tamer Costume:

  • Red Twill fabric (or similar stiff fabric)
  • Red Bias Tape, 1/2 inch double fold (for arm hole opening)
  • Gold fringe, trim and buttons
  • Black top hat (bought mine at Hobby Lobby for a few dollars)
  • Black sparkly fabric (bought mine at Joann’s)
  • Black tulle (for under the skirt
  • Plastic Canvas mesh or cardboard (used to stabilize the shoulder pieces)
  • velcro
  • Black Satin Gloves (Here are the ones I bought….and make a quick seam to adapt for kids)
  • Hoola Hoop
  • Red, yellow, and orange satin…1/4 yard of each
  • Bert Costume tutorial HERE
  • Sewing machine and basic sewing supplies (here’s a list of common sewing supplies, in case you need a few ideas)

***As always, if you need a bit of help with the basic sewing skills used in this tutorial, check out the Sewing 101 post for more help.


So, the vest of this costume is identical to the way I made the Bert Costume, that is linked up in the supply list…..minus the sleeves.  If you’re making a lion tamer costume for a boy…..just make it just like the Bert costume with sleeves, and then add on the other gold embellishments like I show below.  (And then pair it with some black pants, instead of the black fluffy skirt.)  And because the steps are exactly the same as the bert costume, you can reference that tutorial if needed….for further clarification.

First create your pattern piece, from an existing button-up shirt.  However, the shirt shouldn’t be overly baggy because the vest is more fitted and huge the body a little more.  If using an existing vest as a pattern to trace, use the neckline from the back of the vest, not the front piece…..because you’re going to make the neck line the same for the front AND back.  HOWEVER, the front section doesn’t need any additional fabric along the front for an overlap……because the two sides just meet to close, they don’t overlap to close.  Make sure and add a 1/4 inch seam allowance around all edges.

Then, place your fabric with right sides together and cut out 2 front pieces.

Open them up and they’ll look like this:

Now, fold your fabric in half again and place your same pattern piece right along the fold to cut a back piece…..but overlap the pattern piece 1/4 inch beyond the fold.  Since this is being cut on the fold, you don’t need the extra 1/4 inch for a seam allowance.

Here’s a closer look at the overlap.

Once you open up your fabric, it will look like this:

Now, repeat.  Cut 2 more front pieces and 1 more back piece.

Place 2 of your front pieces together with one of your back pieces (with RIGHT sides together) and line up the shoulders and sides.  Sew the shoulders and sides together, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Now, create a collar pattern piece, just like the Bert tutorial linked above….and then cut out 2 pieces from your red fabric.  (Just be sure that the pattern pieces is about 2-3 inches shorter in length than the measurement of the entire neck opening on your vest that you sewed together in the last step.  It will provide a better look to the collar after folding it down later on.)

Place your 2 collar pieces together with right sides together and sew along the sides and bottom edge.  Trim off corners and clip the curve to help make turning right side out easier and lay flat.  (More info on clipping corners and curves.)

Turn right side out and iron flat.

Center the collar along the neck opening of the vest and pin in place, with right sides together.

Then sew in place, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Next, sew your other 2 vest fronts together with the other vest back.  Then place your two completed vest pieces together, with right sides together and pin all the way around.

Sew the vest together using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, around the neckline, sides, and bottom……but leave about a 4-5 inch opening along the very bottom.  Clip your corners and cut slits along the neck line.

Turn right side out and iron flat, tucking the opening along the bottom towards the inside 1/4 inch.

Stitch closed with a needle and thread.  (Need tips with hand sewing??)

Next, fold your collar down, including the top third of the front of the vest on both sides, creating a nice fancy collar look!

Now, if you’re adding sleeves, follow the Bert tutorial linked above.  If you’re not, you’ll need to trim off 1/4 inch around the arm hole opening (since you don’t need the extra for a seam allowance).  Then stitch the two layers of vest together around the arm hole opening.  This will keep the fabric from shifting for the next step.

Attach your bias tape to each arm hole.  (How to use Bias Tape HERE.)

Now, the base of your vest is COMPLETE!  Yay!!!

To create the shoulder fringe pieces…..cut a template out of paper similar to the shape below and hold it over the shoulder of your subject until you create a good size.  You’ll want it to reach from the start of the shoulder by the neck, and extend out past the shoulder.  Once you decide on the right size, trace another paper pattern piece out and add 1/4 inch inch around the curved side and an additional 1/2 inch on the straight edge….for seam allowance.  Cut 2 pieces of red fabric from your paper template for each shoulder.  (So 4 pieces total.)

Attach some of your gold fringe around the outer curved edge of the shoulder piece (along the RIGHT side of the fabric), leaving about 1/2 inch free at the end.

Place another shoulder piece on top, with right sides together, and stitch together along the curved edge, using a 1/4 seam allowance.

Turn right side out.

Cut out a piece of plastic canvas mesh that’s the same size as the red portion of the shoulder pieces….minus about 1/2 inch at the top.

Slide the mesh down inside.

Zig-zag the opening closed.

Fold the edge under about 1/2 inch….and sew in place.

Then attach your shoulder piece to your vest by stitching a few stitches under the collar and along the shoulder of the vest.

And then using a needle and thread…..stitch the other end of the shoulder piece to the armhole of the vest, to help keep it in place.  Be sure that the should piece is centered on the shoulder of the vest, before stitching in place.

Now, to create the closure for the front of the vest….cut 3 strips of fabric that are 2 1/2 inches wide and however long you want the closures to be.  (Mine are about 5 1/2 inches.)  Fold in half lengthwise and iron flat.  Then open up and fold each edge in 1/4 inch and iron flat.

Fold each end in about 1/2 inch and close up again and iron flat.  Stitch closed around all 3 sides.

Repeat with all 3 strips of fabric.  Then place along the front of your vest and sew in place on the left side.  Then add velcro to the second half of each strip and to the right side of the vest.  Add buttons.

Then add some gold cording on top of each strip.  You can stitch the cording on but I ended up hot gluing mine in place!

Also, I forgot to take anymore pictures of adding the rest of the gold trim but you can add whatever type of trim you want….and add it where ever you you want it….but this is what I added!  I hand stitched the trim onto the collar and the trim around the bottom I sewed with my machine.

I didn’t take any pictures of the skirt I made….but it’s just a simple gathered skirt, with a double layer of tulle added as well!  Then it’s gathered up and attached to an elastic waistband.  (Similar to this Elastic Band Skirt tutorial…..just more fabric, so that it gathers in really fluffy.)

Lastly, the hat.  I just made some figure 8 shapes from my gold cording and glued the ends together.

Then I stitched the center of the 8 together so it wouldn’t move (but could have glued it together).

Then I glued these figure 8 shapes to the front of an inexpensive foam hat, added gold buttons….and that was it!


Oh yeah, the Ring of Fire.  I used this bamboo hula hoop that we bought at Ikea a couple years ago (but any ol’ hula hoop would work) and cut strips of my satin fabric and draped them over one side of the hoop.  Then I cut the ends of the fabric strips into a “V” shape and used little dots of hot glue to hold them in place.  (I plan on peeling the fabric off when we’re done….so I tried not to get much glue on the actual hoop and tried to glue the fabric to each other mostly.)

And that’s it!  A completed Lion Tamer Circus Costume….and one very happy 10 year old girl!!!!


Oh, and just you wait….I have 4 more costumes to share!  Any guesses what other characters we’ll be creating?!?!

Talk to you soon!






Ashley Johnston

Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!


  1. Mary says:

    Oh I am guessing that one of the other costumes will have to be a lion.

  2. Mary says:

    Amazing job as usual you are so creative Ashley .. I can’t wait to see the other costumes .

  3. Cindy says:

    Awesome costume! My 13 y/o son has decided he is too old to dress up for Halloween and/or go trick-or-treating. :( So sad. Hopefully, he changes his mind. I love seeing him go out with all his little friends…

  4. Cindy says:

    Oh my goodness, she looks so old!!! Darling costume!!

  5. Leia says:

    What a great costume and I have a 15, 13, and 12 who still love to dress up.

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